“Everything around us was disappearing… The clean water, our way of life, our traditions, even the wild rice picking and blueberry picking were all disappearing” – Judy DaSilva, Grassy Narrows First Nation on the impact of clearcut logging on their traditional lands
The province of Ontario is asking for public comments on a plan to resume clearcut logging in the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The people of Grassy Narrows have already said no to such logging. Amnesty International believes Ontario must listen. We’re encouraging all our members in Ontario to take this opportunity to speak out for the human rights of the people of Grassy Narrows.
The deadline for submissions has passed.
Thank you to the more than 1,200 Ontarians who submitted their comment on the proposal to resume clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
We encourage you to continue to speak out in support of the rights of the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation by sending a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Address your letter to:
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Canada M7A 1A1
Saluation: Dear Premier Wynne
- You may want to note that the people of Grassy Narrows have rights under Treaty 3, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights standards like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that these rights must be respected and upheld in all decisions about development on their territory
- You may also want to note the people of Grassy Narrows have suffered enough from decisions made without their consent and that the province’s priority should be to work collaboratively with the people of Grassy Narrows to restore the health and well-being of their community.
International human rights standards recognize that Indigenous peoples have the right to make their own decisions about how their lands and resources should be used. This includes the right to say no to forms of development that threaten their culture and well-being.
The situation of the people of Grassy Narrows provides a particularly stark example of why this right is so important.
Mercury dumped into their river system throughout the 1960s devastated their health, economy and ability to live off the land according to their customs and traditions. In an effort to restore their community, the people of Grassy Narrows tried to negotiate greater control over their traditional lands. The Ontario government refused. Instead, the province promoted massive clear-cut logging throughout the territory.
As a result of this decision — made without consultation and imposed without consent — trap lines were destroyed, crucial wildlife was driven away, and the people of Grassy Narrows were pushed even closer to the brink. As community member Judy DaSilva recounts, “Everything around us was disappearing.”
Five years ago, the community won a crucial victory. A major US paper company announced that because of human rights concerns it would not buy pulp sourced at Grassy Narrows so long as the First Nation was opposed to such logging. This decision, together with an ongoing blockade, a court case, and other challenges brought by the community, soon halted clearcut logging at Grassy Narrows. It also led to the province finally entering into high level forest management talks with the community, just as the people of Grassy Narrows had long demanded.
Yet, despite this, the Ontario government has still not made any commitment to respect the rights of the people of Grassy Narrows. While talks continue, the province has issued a new, draft 10-year management plan for the Whiskey Jack Forest in which province proposes to once again license massive clearcutting in the territory – against the wishes of the people of Grassy Narrows.
If the province moves ahead with these plans, it would deny the people of Grassy Narrows the opportunity to make their own decisions about what’s best for their economy and culture. New clearcutting could also release even more mercury into Grassy Narrows’ rivers and lakes.